Giovanni Battista Piranesi, this book maintains, led a double life. There was Piranesi the printmaker, master of the etched veduta, the bridegroom who piled up copperplates at his wedding to show off his wealth, the proud subject who told a pope that it was as easy for him to produce a print as for His Holiness to give a blessing, the etcher who controlled the biting process so tightly that he could tell an assistant leaning over the acid bath, “Take it easy, we're making three thousand drawings in one go!” (12). Then there was another Piranesi, the maker of books. This was the entrepreneur who farmed...

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